Economic springtime? We're not in the clover yet

Economists were heartened by some recent reports that show the economy moving in a positive direction, but it's too early to say if these "green shoots" of recovery, to use Federal Reserve Board chair Ben Bernanke's phrase, are here to stay or will be nipped in the bud by a future market chill.

First, the good news: new jobless claims dropped to 601,000, a smaller number than analysts anticipated. Consumer confidence rose significantly, according to The Conference Board, and retail sales rose by 2.1% in April. All of these are good news, to be sure. But hold onto your wallet, because we're not necessarily out of the woods just yet.

It's not all sunshine and daisies out there, and two or three snippets of good news do not a recovery make, says Aparna Mathur, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. "It's too soon to use this data to infer that there's an economic recovery that's going to come in the next few months," she says, pointing out that the housing market (where, if you recall, this whole mess started) is still abysmal, and future unemployment numbers could easily spike again if a huge, interconnected company like Chrysler or General Motors halts production.